Live Review: Creeper - O2 Guildhall, Southampton 10/12/2017
After a whirlwind year that has seen the horror punk outfit release a well received debut album, rock the main stage at Download festival and play the ever popular Warped Tour, hometown heroes Creeper return to Southampton for their biggest headline show to date.
Opening the night are Nervus , a Watford based indie-punk band. The show started very early, and Nervus had the unenviable position of starting their performance only ten minutes after doors opened, meaning the crowd was understandably small for the first part of their performance. Despite this, they impressed with solid and energetic stage presence, tight musicianship and ample sing-along choruses that easily filled the large stage of the guildhall, despite the bands relatively small size. Keyboard player Paul Etienne gives a particularly gleeful performance, leaping around the stage when not delivering keyboard lines. Nervus's set contained a solid mix of up tempo punk, and more emotional songs, and there was a group of very enthusiastic fans at the front of the venue who were clearly eating it up.
The band promote a strong pro LGBTQ message, with lead singer and principal songwriter Em making multiple references to acceptance in the punk scene. This wasn't forced and didn't come across as preachy, and similar sentiments were made by all bands throughout the evening, promoting punk and rock shows as safe spaces for all. On the whole, the band's sound is less energetic and more introspective than tonight's headliner, meaning the majority of the crowd are content to stand and enjoy their melodic sound. Nervus are very much a band at the start of their musical journey, and if tonight's performance and crowd reaction are anything to go by, they can look forward to headlining venues of this size in the future.
Next up are Microwave, hailing from Atlanta Georgia, who present the guildhall with an emotive sound perfectly combining melodic vocals and well placed harsh screams. Some bands mixing screams into melodic music like this can come across as forcing an edge into their sound, but Microwave pull it off so well it adds a real sense of emotion and anger, elevating their performance well above average. Despite this, Microwave were generally static on stage and there was noticeably less of an onus on physical performance than all other bands on the bill. This is not to detract from the overall quality of the bands ability, who perform everything note perfectly, and a large number of the crowd were clearly captured by the performance.
The third band of the night are Can't Swim, from Keansburg New Jersey. They sound like Microwave on steroids, playing a similar blend of melodic rock but with the intensity turned up a notch from the previous band. In particular, bass player Greg McDevitt is a ferocious stage presence, stalking, stomping and delivering powerful screams to compliment lead singer Chris LoPorto's more smooth vocals. Their set features multiple crescendos throughout which the crowd lovingly respond to, as the intensity builds with chanting vocals, repetitive building guitar lines and thunderous drum beats creating an atmosphere of excitement. Drummer Andrea Morgan is a powerhouse performer, never missing a beat and delivering a solid backbone for the rest of the bands tight sound to build from, and the overall sound of Can't Swim is an intriguing mix of grunge, rock, punk and indie. Despite this eclectic range of material, it was all identifiably 'them' and they definitely have their own identity in the sometimes crowded world of the current rock scene.
I can see Can't Swim continuing to grow in popularity, and they were definitely the most polished of tonight's support acts.
As the lights go down and an actor takes the stage playing the part of James Scythe, a character entrenched in the wider Creeper mythos, the crowd begin to lose their minds. When the band themselves finally take the stage after the spoken word and piano intro of single 'Black Rain' the whole venue explodes with excitement. From there the energy never lets up, and through a set which included every track from their album Eternity, In Your Arm as well as a large number of songs from their previous three EP's, there was a huge array of material on show to keep their fans happy. A huge contributing factor to Creeper's ongoing success is that their songs are of such high quality, and only come off as more impressive on a live stage. Combining melodic up tempo punk, epic sing along ballads, memorable choruses and theatrical showmanship, Creeper are truly made for big stages and big venues, and it is not hard to see the band really going far in the coming years.
Something really needs to be said about Creeper's fan base, who are incredibly passionate, with Nervus pointing out that they have seen many of the same faces in the audience on every show of the tour. This makes for a truly electric atmosphere throughout Creeper's set, with every word being sung back and non-stop movement and crowd surfing. Before 'Suzanne' , the first single from their debut album, front-man Will opens up the floor and insights a truly monstrous circle pit when the track kicks in. A truly impressive sight and a testament to the bands ability to work a crowd. Closing out their main set with the epic ballad 'Choose To Live', the crowd continue singing the chorus until the band return for a much desired encore before finally finishing with the fan favourite VCR.
Creeper have come a long way in a short time, but it is clear to see why they are achieving such great success at the moment. They seem so at home on a large stage it is hard to believe they have not been at this level for years, and if they can keep creating music that is as exciting and memorable as their current repertoire then you can expect to see Creeper on large stages and major festivals for years to come.
Review and Photography by Lauren Harris